In Bezel's exclusive interview, we sit down with the GPHG award winning entrepreneur to explore his introduction to the world of mechanical watches, MB&F's most challenging design to date, plus the most prized watch in his extensive and varied collection.
If you’re an avid collector, chances are you’re already familiar with Maximilian Büsser. As the founder of MB&F – Maximilian Büsser and Friends – Büsser has revolutionized the landscape of modern haute horology through the brand’s countless complicated and boundary-pushing designs, realized with the help of the top independent watchmakers of our generation.
We sat down with the GPHG award-winning entrepreneur to explore his introduction to the world of mechanical watches, MB&F's most challenging design to date, plus the most prized watch in his extensive and varied collection. Here’s what our friend Max had to say.
Bezel: How did you get into watches?
MB: While studying engineering in the mid-eighties I began researching why people were buying mechanical watches and pay disproportionate amounts of money for “old” technology. I was lucky enough to meet the then CEOs of AP, Breguet, VC, JLC and Gerald Genta himself – each of whom informed me that they were proving human genius through mechanical artistry.
Bezel: That has to be one of the ultimate introductions to watch collecting. Would you say that initial perception of watchmaking as an “old” technology furthered your interest in radically modern designs?
MB: The watchmaking landscape of the 18th and 19th century was a hundred times more creative and innovative than that of today’s industry. At MB&F we’re trying to reenact that era through today’s cultural lens. We want to feel that same rush of adrenaline they lived two hundred years ago.
Bezel: What was your first watch and what’s the story behind it?
MB: My first watch was a hand winding Jean Perret - I was probably 8 years old, and remember myself winding it up every evening while in bed, just before my dad would come and say good night to me. Before he would switch off the light, I would quickly charge the tritium on the dial under my bedside table lamp.
Bezel: Such a heartwarming memory. Is anyone in your family into horology / watch collecting, as well?
MB: Not at all – zero family links to horology. In fact, back in 1991 when I told my parents that I was going to take my first job with Jaeger-LeCoultre, they thought I was nuts; the watchmaking industry was dead. Come to think of it, no one around me understood.
Bezel: What’s your favorite watch in your collection?
MB: It has to be my MB&F HM4 Thunderbolt - it was a "make or break" piece in our history. Engineering wise, it was incredibly challenging, and I was sure no one would ever buy it, but I still went ahead and invested everything the company had in its development.
Bezel: It’s definitely one of the most daring designs of the 21st century. What was the biggest challenge posed during its development?
MB: It was the first ever watch to be powered by a movement which transferred energy across the case to dual vertically oriented dials. From an engineering perspective, the challenge was to minimize gear backlash throughout the process of that transfer. The case was an insane challenge, as well. Just the central sapphire component took 160 hours to machine and polish. Not a single manufacturer even accepted the task, at first. Psychologically it was so difficult to continue working on it, and all the while the whole team including myself mistakenly thought “no one is ever going to buy this”.
Bezel: When you’re not wearing one of your creations, what are we most likely to see on your wrist?
MB: The most prized watches in my collection are those produced by each of the independent watchmakers I’ve been so lucky to work with over the years (Kari Voutilainen, F.P. Journe, Vianney Halter, Urwerk, Stepan Sarpaneva, Peter Speake-Marin, etc.).
I also try to curate some of our industry’s icons, from a 1965 Rolex GMT-Master ”Pepsi,” to a 1994 Breguet Tourbillon, for example. The rest of the collection is made up of dozens of super cool, crazy watches and clocks of the 30s, 60s, and 70s – accessible pieces in the range of one to two thousand.
Bezel: Why do you continue to enjoy collecting watches?
MB: Because they are one of the ultimate symbols of human genius. I just want to be continually amazed by creativity and beauty.
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- Isaac Wingold, Senior Editor
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